I first learned that a feature-length film was being produced on Haida Gwaii from Marlene Kun Kayangas Liddle, my Haida consultant and mentor while writing my novel Love on the Misty Isles set on these remote former Queen Charlotte Islands. Marlene, an already very busy community-involved woman, had been asked to be a consultant for the costumes of the movie.
When my husband and I took our trip back to the islands in July 2017, we had the pleasure of meeting Marlene for coffee at the Ground Gallery and Coffee House in Masset. We learned that she not only was a costume consultant, but as a talented cedar bark weaver, she and her team, including Georgia Bennett and Nalaga Avis O’Brien, had constructed most of the woven traditional Haida costumes, representative of the early era in which the movie was set. Marlene shared with us photos of some of these costumes. Pictures of her and her team at work can be seen on the Council of the Haida Nation website www.Haidanation.ca. In the search box, type Edge of the Knife, and in the list of topics, click on the one Edge of the Knife: Preparing Props.
From my novel, readers will have learned that through early missionaries and residential schools, the language of the Haida was taken from the people, and today, only a handful of elders know the language. When a group’s language is lost, often the culture is as well; therefore, it’s imperative to preserve it. One of the goals of the movie was to instill the significance of preserving this First Nation’s language before it is lost completely. It would also reinforce the importance of Haida being taught in the public schools and the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program.
The movie, therefore, not only was set on Haida Gwaii, but it was also filmed entirely in the Haida language with English subtitles. Not knowing their inherent language, the actors had to take a crash course in Haida at the Hiellen Longhouse Village cabins and camp at the base of Tow Hill. The movie was just being completed when we were on the islands. Upon completion it would be shown at festivals, but its main audience would be on Haida Gwaii itself to achieve the language preservation goal of the film. The movie has not yet been released.
“The film is inspired by a traditional Haida legend about a man who becomes stranded on an island after being washed up at sea. He transforms into the character Gaagild, or Wildman.” Briar Stewart, CBC News Post: Nov 02, 2017 (see site listed below)
“The film draws its name from a Haida saying ‘the world is as sharp as a knife’ – that as we walk along we have to be careful not to fall off one side or the other.” (Facebook movie page listed below)
For further details about this unique film, its screenwriting origins and production, visit the following websites:
www.Haidanation.ca (In the search box, type Edge of the Knife for a list of articles)